Measuring the Real Cost of Severe Asthma


Asthma: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of CureWe've all seen those statistics, like ‘Allergies Cost Employers $750 Million Annually From Lost Work Time’ or the stat that estimates how much money/productivity employers lose each March when the NCAA basketball tourney starts. (Don't go by that allergy number, I COMPLETELY made that up as an example!) What these stats underscore is how much money and time can be lost when the prevention of certain symptoms and exacerbation of chronic conditions is ignored. In the case of basketball, you may be stuck just having to live with that loss. However, for things like allergies or asthma, there are always real steps you can take to prevent loss of time, money and quality of life. A recent study took up the task of quantifying this for moderate to severe asthma sufferers.

_In a piece published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers quantified the effect of asthma exacerbations in terms of health care costs. Starting with a pool of asthma patients from a large administrative claims database (read: managed care provider, like an HMO), patients with moderate/severe persistant asthma who were taking controller therapy (read: were taking drugs like Advair, Symbicort and Singulair) were tracked for a year. By matching asthma patients who have at least one asthma-related inpatient visit or ER visit or corticosteriod prescription with patients who had none, researchers were able to calculate total and asthma-related health costs. The differences were fairly pronounced.

_Patients who had made at least one trip to the ER or had inpatient treatment accrued nearly twice as much in asthma AND total health care costs for the year. This means for those who had severe attacks, the overall cost to manage the condition, and their health in general, doubled. As the double edge to this sword, those who did experience these types of severe exacerbations in their asthma condition also showed higher rates of sinusitis, pneumonia and other allergy related diagnoses.

_While the causes of the exacerbation were not addressed, one overall conclusion that can be made is that by better controlling attacks (whether developing and using better medication or taking control of the indoor environment via improving air quality or limiting exposure to irritants), we have the potential to dramatically decrease overall cost to treat asthma, even in moderate to severe cases.

_So while overall treatment is a multi-pronged approach that includes prevention and treatment, it kind of reminds you of a very old, but well-known saying by Benjamin Franklin.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

_Need more information? Read the full abstract of this study.

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